Week 26 – cluster feeding

Just when you think it’s safe to go out, along comes a cluster feeding day!

I’d heard that there was another growth spurt around the six months mark but hadn’t really thought about the implications for us.

Then this afternoon, fortunately after we’d arrived at our destination, Reindeer had a long feed. Followed half at hour later by another long feed. Followed twenty minutes after that by yet another long feed. Each time behaving as though he hadn’t been fed for a week!

After this was a nap, bath time and then bed.

His bedtime feed was epic.

After twenty minutes (he normally feeds for five) he unlatched and I thought he was done. But no. He suddenly started rooting again, got my finger and gave me a look which clearly contained the question ‘where’s the milk gone?’. We switched over and he fed for several more minutes before being overcome with sleepiness.

I’ve geared up for a busy night with a big healthy dinner and lots of water.

My husband has helpfully pointed out that when this is over I’ll have two basketballs where my chest used to be.

On the plus side, I’ve just realised that I’ve managed to exclusively breastfeed Reindeer for six months! I didn’t set out to do this; in my diary entry when I was admitted to hospital I express extreme scepticism about breastfeeding, clearly expecting to bottle feed.

Looking back now I’m glad I stuck with it, even though there was an awful 36 hours when he was two weeks old and it felt like he had a mouth full of broken glass every time he fed. I feel like I’ve achieved something and, if the research and WHO are to be believed, I’ve given him the best gift possible.

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Week 26 – time flies

Six months ago today we held Reindeer in our arms for the very first time! Months of anticipation and worry finally ending in the safe arrival of our little boy.

The combination of exhaustion and medication has slightly blurred the memory, but I can remember the moment he was handed to me vividly. He had one eye slightly open and was peering at me around the lavender hospital blanket, calmly taking it all in.

If anything, he amazes me even more today than he did then.

He has such a calm and happy nature; even when poorly (he currently has a chest infection) he will smile and laugh and want to see everything! My parents have been with us the last couple of days and Reindeer has been happily playing with them and chatting to them, it is wonderful to see the joy this has given them.

The time has gone so quickly and he is growing so fast. This is both metaphorical and literal – we weighed him today and he tipped the scales at 22lb!

I’m really looking forward to what the next six months will bring ūüôā

Random Ramblings – communication

Looking back over the last few months, I realise that I entered parenthood in a state of blissful ignorance. I had no concept at all of how much my life was about to change. The repercussions of creating a new human and bringing them into your life are vast.

Whilst I was pregnant, one of my colleagues, a mother of two, was very supportive and excited for me. When I saw her seven weeks after Reindeer’s arrival, she took one look at me and said: you wouldn’t have believed me if I’d tried to tell you. She was right, too. I wouldn’t have.

My expectation was that I’d feel emotional – drained but happy – and would have to make some adjustments to my leisure time.

I didn’t realise that I would no longer have leisure time. Or that emotional would cover¬†all emotions, not just the nice, fluffy ones.

The reality is that for the 12-13 hours each day that Reindeer is active, I’m with him for almost every minute. I wake frequently during the night either to feed him, or just because he’s made a noise that has me checking he’s OK. My world has expanded – or shrunk, depending on your viewpoint – to encompass him as the primary focus of my life. As soon as he is asleep in the evenings I begin the chores that I just can’t leave until tomorrow, because then they will appear insurmountable and my mood will be increasingly stressed and depressed. After dinner I am too zoned out to do much of anything.

As you can imagine, this is having a huge impact on my mood. Worse still, I realised today, it is having a huge impact on my ability to communicate with my husband. I’m just too tired and confused to make sense of how I feel any more. It is only when something reaches crisis point that it finally makes it to the bit of my brain which is still functioning. Unfortunately, I’m unable to process it so, whatever it is, it comes out in tears and frustration.

This is massively unfair on both of us; but especially on my husband. He has no idea what to expect and I have lost the ability to test my thoughts, so he gets them raw. The thing with ‘say what you think’ is that humans have internal filters for a purpose. We are a species with the rare ability to reason. Failing to apply¬†reason¬†and saying what we think leads to far more upset and hurt than is intended or needed. I’ve always tried hard to be reasonable in my thinking; struggling to do this means I’m unintentionally hurting those I love the most.

Today I was battling with the thought of returning to work. I’d originally planned to take nine months of maternity leave. Naively I’d thought that I would be bored with a baby and looking forward to spending time with grown-ups and the challenges of my job by this point (lots of women at work told me this). The reality is that I’m dreading the return. Reindeer is so much more fun and challenging than I ever imagined and I don’t want to be away from him. Not just for the extra three months of maternity leave, but I want to cut down my hours at work too. As soon as I realised this, the stress started building. Financial worries, confidence worries, time worries, ability worries. It was like a mountain of stress. My husband returned home blissfully unaware that I was about to pop.

There was no anger, just a lot of tears and despair.

He told me that we should be doing this together. And he’s right, we should. It’s just that I can’t work out how to communicate any more. And the longer this goes on, the harder it is to know where to begin.

I’m working on it though. I want nothing more than to be able to communicate with my husband in the confident, easy way we had for over a decade before Reindeer arrived. After just five short months I don’t know how to get back to that.

I think this is what my friend meant: that the changes you experience will be many, they will occur in areas of your life that you thought were rock solid and, as a consequence, they will be damn hard to deal with.

And, until you’ve been there, you just can’t imagine¬†it.

Week 25 – bath time

When Reindeer was a fortnight old, it was with a whole heap of nerves that we attempted to give him a proper bath for the first time.

We were meticulous in getting everything ready and checked the water umpteen times using the Elbow Technique. After drawing a collective breath, we gently lowered him into the water – he’s just spent 9-months in amniotic fluid, he’s probably missed this, we told ourselves.

It was the most we’d heard him cry to date.¬†A quick swirl of water to clean all the necessary areas and we had him out of there in a flash, still shrieking. In case we hadn’t got the message, he chose this moment to give my husband a Golden Shower.

Taking stock of the whole sorry episode once Reindeer was asleep, my husband likened bathing him to attempting to baptise a cat.

This didn’t really bode well for future efforts and, for the next week, it was back to bed baths.

The day after this disaster I ordered a bath thermometer online. I’d been reading up on bathing overnight and, apparently, 37 degrees celsius was the golden temperature. I was pretty sure that this wasn’t what our elbows had told us so decided a thermometer would provide an unbiased second opinion.

With much trepidation we approached attempt #2; what if it went just as badly as last time? What if Reindeer just hated baths?

After checking the thermometer we slid him into the water and held our breath…

…and, nothing! In fact, he was very relaxed – he seemed happy in there.

Bath time has been one of the highlights of his day ever since. He relaxes in there; wiggles, splashes, sings, chatters, squeaks and smiles a lot. Even tonight, full of coughs and sneezes, he was just as happy as always.

Pretty soon his balance will be good enough that he can sit unaided in the bath. I’m really looking forward to this as the whole realm of bath toys will be available to us! He was given a larger baby bath, some boats and a bath book for Christmas, plus I have some old plastic ducks he can play with, a promotion from a Belgian hotel.

This time of day is special for me too¬†– we have a lovely time together and I can sing some silly old sea songs (I grew up on the coast) which I’d like Reindeer¬†to know too. Bath time, in fact our whole bedtime routine, actually helps me to relax – a big step forward from when we first began it and I spent the whole time trying to remember where I’d put everything and what I should be doing next! Perhaps I’m finally settling into this parent role a little?

Week 25 – speech

Although Reindeer is some months away from his first recognisable and deliberate speech, he has recently begun to change the way he produces sounds.

His first ‘ah-goo’ sounds were from the throat only and delightfully cute in how they were drawn out if he was happier or shorter if he was tired.

Now, he has a new set of sounds Рmuch louder and longer. Reindeer appears to be singing, but as he makes these sounds he is flexing his jaw and working it around the noise he is making. He also seems to have breaks in the sound, possibly mimicking the sentences he hears as people speak to, and around, him.

What this movement appears to do is to give him a greater range and control over the sound. No recognisable consonants just yet but very interesting to watch.

The added bonus is that this movement allows me a sneaky peak into his mouth to check whether any of those pesky teeth are making an appearance yet – surely there must be some soon, he’s producing enough saliva to drown a small country!

Week 25 – poorly

Common cold virus; image from http://www.medicallibraryonline.com/?t=Common_Cold_Rhinovirus_Cornavirus_Parainfluenza_Virus

One of the stranger things people told us as we prepared for parenthood was ‘you’ll become obsessed with poo!’. Our response was along the lines of ‘pull the other one, it’s got bells on’.

Now we need to eat those words.

Over the last few days we have, indeed, been obsessed with poo. Reindeer has doubled the number of dirty nappies produced each day and changed the colour of his outputs from yellow to green. Both bizarre and concerning. A call to the health visitor has narrowed the cause down to teething or a virus.

On top of this he has developed a cold, so is basically a poorly little chap just now.

The health visitor has advised an early night for the parents as it might be a long one.

He was very clingy today and, while it is always nice to cuddle up, I really would benefit from a decent sleep. And no night-time nappy changes.

Here’s hoping for a better night all round and a much healthier and happier Reindeer tomorrow!

Week 25 – a bump on the head

Despite everyone in the household suffering from the common cold, it has been a pretty good day today. Reindeer and I have played games, been shopping, cuddled in the wrap when he felt clingy and generally enjoyed ourselves.

Bath time was lovely with¬†Reindeer splashing, chattering and singing all the way through. When he’d had enough I lay him on the floor on his elephant towel¬†and wrapped him up, as I do every night, then went to pick him up. Kneeling down, I’d lifted him to about the height of my knee, maybe three inches up, when he gave a sudden lurch away from me; I lost my grip and he bumped his head on the floor.

The sound, to my ears at least, was as if the loudest drum had been hit in the echo-iest cave by the strongest giant. It is still reverberating in my head now.

Panic!

I had him back up in my arms in a nanosecond.

He looked at me wide-eyed with shock, took a deep breath and let out a cry. He cried for about 20 seconds as I carried him back to his room and cuddled him for all I was worth.

Just as quickly as they started, the cries stopped. I lay him down, dried him, put on his nappy and picked him up for another cuddle. He looked at me and smiled.

It was at this point when I started breathing again.

I examined¬†Reindeer’s head and it seemed fine so I lay him on his cot and started getting him ready for bed. He kept smiling at me, then laughing when I made faces to the nursery rhymes on the CD we had playing – just the same as every night – and I finally accepted that he was OK.

He had a good feed and fell asleep at the end of it. When I lay him in bed he looked peaceful enough, but was merrily snoring away thanks to the stuffy nose his cold has given him.

Although I logically know he is fine, I will be checking on him regularly during the evening and probably through the night. Is this overprotective? Probably.

I never thought I’d be the wrap-them-in-cotton-wool type, but I’ve realised tonight that he is so very precious that it is exactly the type I will be. Not in any way that Reindeer will notice – it is imperative that he doesn’t consider every step dangerous or he will never progress, never take those risks we all need to in order to grow. But I will be there, just out of sight, prepared, I hope, for every eventuality, so that he’s never truly facing anything alone – even¬†though he needs to believe that’s what he’s doing.